GameStop Getting Played

Over the past few days, but really over the past few weeks, GameStop’s stock price has been on a rocket ship ride. It all started when a bunch of folks on the Reddit board WallStreetBets observed that several large institutional investors had shorted GameStop’s stock. So over the past month or so, all of those private investors who follow that Reddit board started buying GME’s stock to drive its value up, thus driving huge possible losses for those institutional investors who bet against the retailer. From the CNBC article:

GameStop has rallied more than 680% in January alone as an army of retail investors marshaled against short sellers in online chat rooms, encouraging each other to pile on and keep pushing the stock higher. Short sellers have amassed a mark-to-market loss of more than $5 billion year to date in the stock, including a loss of $917 million on Monday and $1.6 billion on Friday, according to data from S3 Partners.

This activity was then sent into overdrive when Elon Musk tweeted about it.

Those are some big numbers pointing in the wrong direction. As noted when chatting with a friend today about this, someone is going to be holding the bag on this and it will not be pretty.

A New Day To Look Forward

Yesterday was the last day that we never had a female Vice President of the United States. Congratulations to VP Kamala Harris. This is a big deal and we should not let it go unnoticed.

And stating the obvious here, but the poem by Amanda Gorman. WOW!

Today is a good day for the United States and the World. There is work to do. A LOT of work. But today is a good day to build on.

Everything He Touches Dies

Over the past 5+ years, one of the most vocal and astute observers of the 45th President has been Seth Abramson. Through his Twitter feed, his “Proof” trilogy of books, and now his Substack, he has done a masterful job of aggregating all the reported news on everything having to do with 45, his family of grifters, and the corrupt politicians and lackeys that have enabled him over the past 5+ years, and then stitched it all together into a compelling and damning narrative of the lies, deceit and corruption that has taken place over this timeframe. The damage that has been done to the United States over this short time frame can not be understated. So on the last day of the “Agent Orange” presidency, take a few minutes to read his reminder to never forget what has actually happened over the past 5 years and the utter chaos and damage that has been sowed on our country, to people’s lives, and to the rule of law. Seth’s essay closed with the following:

All I can ask is that we remember the reason for our forgetting: that this president staged his presidency in such a way as to generate so many needless crises per week it was impossible to focus on any one of them for very long. And when finally caught out in illicit conduct he couldn’t distract us from, he used a pliant right-wing media and equally pliant political partners to shame mainstream journalists into a risible “bothsidesism” we still haven’t moved beyond. Had media not permitted itself to be falsely chastened by this historically hypocritical president, it would have given more than a passing mention to the genuinely jaw-dropping revelations about Donald Trump and his aides, allies, advisers, associates, agents, and attorneys that were contained in the bipartisan Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report.

Just so, there would have been follow-ups on stories that were instead permitted to fall through the cracks for the sake of newer and shinier scandals. So it was that the policy atrocities of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos largely escaped sustained attention, or the president’s handling of our immigration system through nothing more than a vanity wall and xenophobic contempt, or the way he orchestrated the brutalization of social justice protesters in the nation’s capital and elsewhere in the summer of 2020.

A man as monstrous as Donald Trump can only continue to move in polite society if he leaves in his wake a swell of forgetfulness so dazzlingly mercurial we can’t help but watch the foam and spray glisten in the sun. Those of us who never bought into this inveterate con man’s schtick might think ourselves immune to his supposed charms, but we are not immune to the way he controlled and manipulated and artificially foreshortened over a thousand news cycles full of disgrace, horror, and vile conduct.

In other words, we don’t remember what we don’t remember, and Trump counts on it.

So for all that this despicable brigand from New York City really should have attended Joe Biden’s inauguration, and really should have written a nice note for his successor to leave in a drawer in the Resolute Desk, and for all that he really shouldn’t be seeking to upstage the inauguration of the 46th President of the United States via a schlocky pseudo-military sendoff at Joint Base Andrews, can we also remember—not just in broad strokes, but the rank particulars—that Donald Trump is a career criminal, a seditious insurrectionist, a serial sexual assailant, and a grave national security threat?

Seth Abramson

I was on a family vacation in London in November, 2016 when the news came that he had won the Presidency. And at that time, I said that we as a nation were completely screwed (using much more colorful language). Four years later, THAT may have been the understatement of the century.

The work needed to extricate our country from the damage of the past 4+ years only now begins, and it will not be easy to get us back on the right path. That said, let’s celebrate the incoming administration and the fact that we elected a woman of color to the post of Vice President of the United States, and that the residents of Georgia elected a black pastor and a Jewish man to their two Senate seats.

Aggregation of 500+ Insurrection Videos

Unless you live under a rock, or choose to live in a media bubble filled with lies and misinformation, you should be aware that after the violent mob attacked the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, the ‘unfiltered’ social media site Parler was also taken offline by Apple, Google, and Amazon. In addition, a social activist hacker who was thinking quickly downloaded practically all the activity that was posted to the service.

Operating on little sleep, @donk_enby began the work of archiving all of Parler’s posts, ultimately capturing around 99.9 percent of its content. In a tweet early Sunday, @donk_enby said she was crawling some 1.1 million Parler video URLs. “These are the original, unprocessed, raw files as uploaded to Parler with all associated metadata,” she said. Included in this data tranche, now more than 56 terabytes in size, @donk_enby confirmed that the raw video files include GPS metadata pointing to exact locations of where the videos were taken.

Gizmodo

After that, all this amazingly valuable and incriminating information was released and from there, the folks at Pro Publica sifted through all the videos that were posted to Parler, pulled out about 500+ of the most relevant ones, and aggregated them by the time they were shot and the location that they were shot at. The result is a chronological mash up of all these videos from about Noon on January 6th through to 6pm.

Pro Publica had access to this ‘meta’ information because Parler uploaded the raw files to their servers – meaning all the original ‘meta data’ attached to the videos such as time and location – and this information was still there and attached to these videos.

I’m sure this will be very valuable information for law enforcement.

Ted Lasso AFC Richmond Wallpapers

Ted Lasso - AFC Richmond

As with many folks out there binging anything worthwhile on TV and streaming services, I finally got around to watching Ted Lasso on Apple TV+. When I first saw the promos and trailers for the series, I was as skeptical as many other folks out there. The history of television shows that have mutated from advertising campaigns (NBC originally used the Ted Lasso character to promote their coverage of the English Premier League football) is not a pleasant story – see: ABC’s Cavemen via Geico. Yet somehow, Apple TV+ and the show runners have figured out something that works – what a fun, enjoyable, and entertaining series.

So, in honor of the show and its fictitious EPL club AFC Richmond, and the fact that I have a disturbing habit/hobby of making Desktop wallpapers of actual EPL clubs, I share with you AFC Richmond Home and Away desktop wallpapers to be downloaded and used to your heart’s content. Like all the others I create, the wallpaper dimensions are 2560 x 1440 pixels and you can drag/drop or download them right to your desktop. You will also be able to find these in the “Television” tab of the Movies, TV & Misc. collection of Wallpapers on my site.

For the AFC Richmond Home kit, I created two versions – one with the red/yellow stripe offset right to mimic the actual kit layout in the show, while the logo is in the center of the wallpaper. The other version has the red/yellow stripe centered with the logo, to mimic how the logo overlays the stripe on the show’s kit. Different folks will have different preferences, so I thought I’d just do it both ways.

AFC Richmond – Home (Offset Vertical Stripe)
AFC Richmond – Home (Centered Vertical Stripe)
AFC Richmond – Away
AFC Richmond – Training (Practice)

Asleep At the Computer

From the NY Times on the recent hack of pretty much every security department system in the US Government:

Over the past few years, the United States government has spent tens of billions of dollars on cyberoffensive abilities, building a giant war room at Fort Meade, Md., for United States Cyber Command, while installing defensive sensors all around the country — a system named Einstein to give it an air of genius — to deter the nation’s enemies from picking its networks clean, again.

It now is clear that the broad Russian espionage attack on the United States government and private companies, underway since spring and detected by the private sector only a few weeks ago, ranks among the greatest intelligence failures of modern times.

Einstein missed it — because the Russian hackers brilliantly designed their attack to avoid setting it off. The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security were looking elsewhere, understandably focused on protecting the 2020 election.

NY Times

Once again, while the US Government is playing checkers, our adversaries are playing chess when it comes to cyber-security. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that even as the US Government has spent billions to set up their ironically named “Einstein” cyber-security system, it wasn’t that system that detected the hack. It was a private company – the US Government vendor FireEye – that actually detected it and alerted US authorities.

How Thanksgiving Became “Thanksgiving”

Image source: Wikipedia Commons

Yes, there was a feast near Plymouth Plantation between the European settlers and the Native Americans way back in 1621. That is the branding and the omnipresent visuals that have pervaded the holiday over the past decades. The reality is that Thanksgiving did not become a ‘thing’ until the era of the Civil War. From the awesome Substack newsletter of Heather Cox Richardson (History Professor at Boston College):

That first Thanksgiving celebration was not in Plymouth, Massachusetts. While the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags did indeed share a harvest feast in fall 1621, and while early colonial leaders periodically declared days of thanksgiving when settlers were supposed to give their thanks for continued life and– with luck—prosperity, neither of these gave rise to our national celebration of Thanksgiving.

We celebrate Thanksgiving because of the Civil War.

Heather Cox Richardson

During the Civil War, there was a period when the prospects of the Union army was not looking good. So the Governors of several states declared a ‘thanksgiving’ holiday to celebrate the troops efforts and drum up support for the cause. The original date of Thanksgiving was August 6th. However, as the Civil War raged on, the Union Army started to secure some victories – none bigger than Vicksburg on July 4th of 1863. And from there, Lincoln decided that a second date for giving thanks to the troops was needed.

The following year, Lincoln proclaimed another day of thanksgiving, this time congratulating Americans that God had favored them not only with immigration but also with the emancipation of formerly enslaved people. “Moreover,” Lincoln wrote, “He has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions.”

Lincoln established our national Thanksgiving to celebrate the survival of our democratic government.

Heather Cox Richardson

It is always interesting to peel back the perception of how certain traditions started to learn the real history of what circumstances really led to what we celebrate today.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gaelic Football’s Final Four The Same As Bloody Sunday 100 Years Ago

Bloody Sunday Ticket - Tipperary v Dublin
Bloody Sunday Ticket - Tipperary v Dublin
Image via Adams Auctions (https://www.adams.ie)

Recently, and over the next few years, there will be several centennial anniversaries related to the Irish War of Independence that took place roughly 100 years ago (1919-1921) and was led by Irish heroes like Michael Collins. A key event during that difficult time was the Bloody Sunday massacre that took place 100 years ago this past Saturday, November 21st. It was on this day where people attending a Gaelic Football game at Croke Park in Dublin were attacked by British operatives in retaliation for the death of 14 British intelligence officers earlier that day at the hands of the Irish Republican Army. Charles Piece wrote a great piece at The Defector detailing what happened:

Dublin was on edge. That morning, in a coordinated attack, guerrillas under the command of IRA leader Michael Collins fanned out of the city and systematically decapitated the British intelligence apparatus in the Irish capital. In a single operation, the IRA killed 14 people it had identified as British intelligence operatives. It was one of the most decisive episodes in the War of Independence that had begun in 1919 and it shook the British government in Ireland to its core. Suspicions arose that the gunmen may have planned to melt into the crowd at Croke Park; the GAA was born out of the same burst of Irish nationalism that eventually would lead to the Easter Rising and the birth of the IRA. (In fact, historians now believe that John McDonnell, the goalkeeper of the Dublin side, had been involved in the killing that morning of two British intelligence agents before showing up to play the match. That is one rich, full day.) The money raised at the challenge game would go to a fund that supported the families of Republican prisoners still held in British jails.

At Croke Park on the afternoon of November 21, 1920, about five minutes after the game had begun, the attention of the spectators was drawn by an airplane that circled above the stadium twice and then fired off a red flare. 

As if it were a signal, which it likely was, the police and soldiers surrounding the neighborhood stormed into Croke Park through its southwest gate and opened up on the crowd with rifles and revolvers. When the killing was done, 14 people were dead. They included three schoolboys—10-year-old Jerome O’Leary, 11-year-old William Robinson, and 14-year-old John William Scott—as well as Jane Boyle, a 26-year old who was planning to be married later that week, and Michael Hogan, a Tipperary player who was killed while crawling to cover. Somewhere between 60 and 100 people were wounded.

Charles Piece, The Defector

On that fateful Sunday 100 years ago, the final four teams that had survived the Gaelic Football playoffs were Dublin, Mayo, Tipperary and Cavan. And wouldn’t you know that fate would mess with us 100 years on.

The biggest of the planned centenary commemorations, some of which had been in the works for years, were downsized or outright canceled because of COVID-19. But the games went on, sans fans and English soldiers. And from the just-completed quarterfinal round of the GAA’s All-Ireland tournament (an annual competition that grips the nation and is played exclusively by amateur athletes representing their home counties) it appears that the Gaelic football gods remembered what happened all those years ago. The four sides that advanced over the weekend to next month’s semifinals—Dublin, Mayo, Tipperary and Cavan—are the exact same quartet that made the semis in 1920, the year of the bloodbath. 

The 2020 Gaelic Final Four semi finals will take place the weekend of December 5-6 and the Championship will be held on December 19.

Why America’s medical professionals are petrified about this winter and the Coronavirus

From the LA Times:

If you want to know why public health officials are so nervous about how much worse the COVID-19 pandemic will get as the holiday season unfolds, consider what happened after a single, smallish wedding reception that took place this summer in rural Maine.

Only 55 people attended the Aug. 7 reception at the Big Moose Inn in Millinocket. But one of those guests arrived with a coronavirus infection. Over the next 38 days, the virus spread to 176 other people. Seven of them died.

None of the victims who lost their lives had attended the party.

Over the past few weeks, as we all know by now, the volume of cases in the United States has exploded to levels that have exceeded the worst days of the pandemic from this past spring. The current administration has had one meeting of their COVID Task Force since mid October, and that was only held this week, likely because of peer pressure since President-elect Joe Biden has already created a COVID task force and held their first meeting on Tuesday. The current President is in a self-imposed ‘time out’ where he’s spent the past week pouting about losing the general election, while the rest of the country is drowning in COVID outbreaks.

The most infuriating aspect of this whole pandemic is that most of this carnage was preventable. If the current President had just acted on the intelligence that he received in December of 2019, instead of waiting until January 18th to take his first meeting with Health & Human Services officials, it is reasonable to deduce we could have prevented more than half of the 240,000+ deaths that we have had so far as a result of the virus if people and the administration had listened to medical professionals and promoted the idea of wearing a mask. Instead, the president undermined the message from the very beginning and turned it into a political issue. Let that sink in. Instead of me trying to explain this any further, just watch John Oliver explain it in plain terms:

So now, we are heading into the holiday season, where families usually get together and the weather is starting to get much colder. It is inevitable that the Coronavirus may explode beyond the alarming numbers we are seeing today.

Has the Coronavirus ‘magically gone away’? I don’t think so.

Who are we?

From Frank Bruni at The NY Times:

Opinion: “Trump snuffed out my confidence, flickering but real, that we could go only so low and forgive only so much. With him we went lower — or at least a damningly large percentage of us did. In him we forgave florid cruelty, overt racism, rampant corruption, exultant indecency, the coddling of murderous despots, the alienation of true friends, the alienation of truth itself, the disparagement of invaluable institutions, the degradation of essential democratic traditions.

He played Russian roulette with Americans’ lives. He played Russian roulette with his own aides’ lives. In a sane and civil country, of the kind I long thought I lived in, his favorability ratings would have fallen to negative integers, a mathematical impossibility but a moral imperative. In this one, they never changed all that much.

Polls from mid-October showed that about 44 percent of voters approved of Trump’s job performance — and this was after he’d concealed aspects of his coronavirus infection from the public, shrugged off the larger meaning of it, established the White House as its own superspreader environment and cavalierly marched on.

Forty-four percent. Who in God’s name are we?”

Don’t steal a Banksy

Via www.streetartbio.com/artists/banksy/

Most people familiar with the artist Banksy. He (or she. I will use ‘he/his’ moving forward) is known for not being known. And he is also known for his distinctive modern art that ‘pops up’ in unique spots all around the world. With the nature of Banksy’s art being so public and displayed in such public spaces, it is really interesting how he (or she) goes about distributing ‘Certificates of Authenticity’ to verify that the person who possess his art acquired it legitimately.

Banksy has established a virtual portal to authenticate whether specific works of his are both genuine and genuinely obtained — and, as the guy trying to get a painting valued admits, he’d visited the site and been told that the painting could not be validated because it was not obtained legally. 

Dubbed Pest Control, the service offers an easy-to-use interface to determine a particular work’s validity. Elsewhere on Pest Control’s site, they offer a more extensive explanation of what they do — namely, issue certificates of authenticity.

As for what that means, well — here’s what Pest Control themselves have to say: “The certificate of authenticity (COA) means you can buy, sell or insure a piece of art knowing it’s legitimate and the wheels won’t fall off,” they write. “Pest Control is the only source of COA’s for Banksy. We issue them for paintings, prints, sculptures and other attempts at creativity. We don’t issue them for things like stickers, posters, defaced currency or anything which wasn’t originally intended as a ‘work of art’.”

Pest Control also offers a “Keeping It Real” service, which lets prospective buyers of a work by Banksy confirm that the work is, in fact, legitimate. 

This situation came into full relief recently as someone who had ‘acquired’ an Banksy in Brighton UK had brought the piece onto Antiques Roadshow to get it appraised, only to be taken to the woodshed by the host, who chastised the person for not providing the ‘Certificate of Authenticity’.

I am a fan of Banksy’s work because of the way his art communicates a clear, many times withering, message about a topic, movement or circumstance that people need to pay attention to. What brings this home is not only the art itself, but the surface in which the art is painted and/or the environment surrounding the art. One of my favorite pieces that he has done was a mural on the corner of a garage in Port Talbot, Wales, UK. On one wall of the corner, it depicts a child in winter clothes with his arms outstretch and mouth open, seeming to be catching snowflakes with his tongue. If you look on the wall on the other side of the corner, you see that it is a burning garbage bin that is producing the flakes. The message he was sending had to do with the fact that Port Talbot is the home of one of the largest steel mills in the UK that produces immense pollution in and around that area. The accompanying video that he published on his Instagram account really brings the message home.

View this post on Instagram

. . . . Season’s greetings . . .

A post shared by Banksy (@banksy) on

Update: Maybe my observation that Banksy may be a woman wasn’t too far off! From an article on Bloomberg from 2014:

But what Banksy Does New York makes plain is that the artist known as Banksy is someone with a background in the art world. That someone is working with a committee of people to execute works that range in scale from simple stencil graffiti to elaborate theatrical conceits. The documentary shows that Banksy has a different understanding of the street than the artists, street-writers, and art dealers who steal Banksy’s shine by “spot-jocking” or straight-up pilfering her work—swagger-jackers who are invariably men in Banksy Does New York. All of which serves as evidence against the flimsy theory that Banksy is a man.

The Half Life of A Twinkie

All the stories and legends about the half-life of Twinkies are a lie. The perception has always been that when global warming renders the world into a barren wasteland, or when a massive asteroid hits the earth like in the movie Armageddon, the one food product that would survive would be the Twinkie. With the level of chemicals and artificial sweeteners and flavors contained within the iconic snack, why would you think otherwise? Back in 2012, the Twinkies brand was on life support as Hostess was going bankrupt and people were starting to hoard the snack for posterity and to ensure their supply did not run out, as one does. And that is what Colin Purrington did, unaware that a real life pandemic would take hold of the world and drive him to search his basement eight years later for that old box of Twinkies. They’re Twinkies. They will last forever.

Like many people, Purrington believed Twinkies are basically immortal, although the official shelf life is 45 days. He removed a Twinkie from the box, unwrapped it — it looked fine — and took a bite. Then he retched.

“It tasted like old sock,” Purrington says. “Not that I’ve ever eaten old sock.”

That’s when he examined the other Twinkies. Two looked weird. One had a dark-colored blemish the size of a quarter. The other Twinkie was completely transformed — it was gray, shrunken and wrinkly, like a dried morel mushroom.

Enter some scientists from West Virginia University who did a full on scientific study of the 8 year old Twinkies and the fascinating dichotomy between some of the specimens, who on the outside looked as fresh as if you would have bought them today at your local 7-11, and others who had been completely ravaged by a fungus that had transformed the Twinkie into a shriveled mess, while sucking the air out of the packaging.

They noticed that the wrapping on the mummified Twinkie seemed to be sucked inward, suggesting that the fungus got in before the package was sealed and, while the fungus was consuming the Twinkie, it was using up more air or oxygen than it was putting out.

“You end up with a vacuum,” Lovett says. “And very well that vacuum may have halted the fungus’s ability to continue to grow. We just have the snapshot of what we were sent, but who knows if this process occurred five years ago and he just only noticed it now.”

Lovett had expected a horrific smell to hit them when they opened the snack cakes. “I though the smell would possibly kill one of us, but because of the mummification there really was no smell at all,” he says, “which was really a pleasant surprise.”

Moral of the story. Your snacks won’t last forever, even those as artificial as Twinkies. Eat them when they are fresh.

Voyeuristic Views of the World

With so many still under some form of quarantine as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to ‘virtually’ escape and go ‘visit’ other places around the world is obviously in demand.

In late June, a site called Window Swap was making the rounds. It is a site that has the simple premise of being able to share a photo or video of what the world looks like while looking out the window of your home. For example, how about having this view of the Egyptian Pyramids outside of your window. I’d never stop looking away.

Keeping with this trend, another neat site that takes this premise to the next level is Drive & Listen. What this site does is let you watch dashcam video from people driving in and around all sorts of great cities of the world, and ‘overlays’ it with radio broadcasts from that market. So for example, you can watch a video of someone driving around Rome, Italy during any normal day while listening to Italian radio. There is even a Drive & Listen Instagram account as well.

A ho hum day driving around Rome, Italy

For someone who loves to travel and is kinda frustrated to have to be at home for so long as our country deals with this pandemic, being able to see the nuances of many of the world’s great cities from my desktop computer is a pretty neat trick.

Photo realistic images of historic figures

From photographer Bas Uterwijk, some pretty authentic looking A.I. generated images of a few historical figures as if they were to pose for a modern portrait photo. To me, the two below of George Washington and Vincent Van Gogh are pretty stunning versions – especially George Washington’s eyes and the almost tired look of his face. You just feel like he’s going to command the room and not put up with any ‘red coat’ bs.

via Bas Uterwijk
via Bas Uterwijk

The Law School life of the Notorious RBG

Really interesting and entertaining interview with Ruth Bader Ginsburg via Slate Mag. The premise of the interview was to profile her relationship with the 9 other female classmates in a late 1950s Harvard Law School class that had over 500 men. The interviewers (Dahlia Lithwick) talked with RBG in detail about each of her female classmates, and the dynamics of their relationships – including how there was a sort of schism between those that were married and those that were not.

Well, in my first year, I was the only one who was married and had a child. I think Carol, I think she got married. And Alice got married at the end of her first year. So my first year, I was the only married woman in the class. And the only mother, because Rhoda [who was married] took her first year at Penn, and then she was in our second year.

Beyond the dynamics of the few females in this Harvard Law class, there was the relationship that the females had with the faculty and the Dean. The class regularly had dinner with the Law School Dean at the time, Erwin Griswold, as the Dean had a sincere advocacy for the success of women, even if his methods and approach went over like a lead balloon.

Anyway, [at the dinner], each of us had an escort. [The dean] arranged for somebody on the faculty to sit next to each of the women. And my escort was a very well-known Columbia Law School professor, Herb Wechsler.

I’m told that the escorts, before they came to Griswold’s home for dinner, went nearby to Judge [Calvert] Magruder’s house. Because the dean didn’t serve any alcohol, they went there first. There were many good things about Dean Griswold, including his bravery in the McCarthy era—in the book he wrote about the Fifth Amendment. But he didn’t have a sense of humor, and because he had been a proponent of the admission of women, he wanted to assure the doubting Thomases on the faculty that these women were going to do something worthwhile with their law degrees. So he asked that question, “Why are you here occupying a seat that could be held by a man?,” because he wanted to be armed with stories from the women themselves, about how they plan to make use of their law degrees, and not just waste this wonderful education they would get.

He didn’t have any sense that he was making the women feel uncomfortable about this. I don’t know if Flora told you about her answer, but as I remember it, she said, “Dean Griswold, there are X number of us. … There are 500 of them. What better place to find a man?

Yet after all the glass ceilings that RBG and her peers broke, and after all the progress that women have made in law – and other industry – the observation at the end of the article really struck me when the discussion turned to RBG’s perspective on how women today are facing similar challenges to those that she faced in the 1960s and 1970s, which in the eyes of a twenty-something in 2020, seems like the dark ages.

It’s an unconscious bias. It’s the expectation. You have a lowered expectation when you hear a woman speaking, I think that still goes on. That instinctively when a man speaks, he will be listened to, where people will not expect the woman to say anything of value. But all of the women in my generation have had, time and again, that experience where you say something at a meeting, and nobody makes anything of it. And maybe half an hour later, a man makes the identical point, and people react to it and say, “Good idea.” That, I think, is a problem that persists. Some of it is getting over unconscious bias by becoming conscious of it, which I thought … I’ve told the story about the symphony orchestra many times. People were so sure that they could tell the difference between a woman playing and a man, and when put to the test, when blindfolded, they could not.

Willis Reese was a law professor at Columbia Law School. And he said, there’s one thing he regrets about the old days. He said when the class was moving slowly, and you wanted to get a crisp right answer, “You called on a woman. She was always prepared.” And nowadays, he said, there’s no difference, the women are as unprepared as the men.

Taking On A Generational Talent Like Zion Williamson

Millions of kids across the country participate in high school athletics. Invariably, those high school athletes will compare themselves, or be compared, to the other players in their conference and state. Some will think they measure up pretty well. Others know they will not do more than earn their high school varsity letter. And then, every once in a while, a generational talent will show up and re-calibrate everything.

Zion Williamson, a rookie Power Forward on the New Orleans Pelicans, is two years removed from playing high school basketball in South Carolina. Every opponent during his high school career had his game marked – “The Zion Game” – and those opponents knew that they were in for a long, humbling evening:

The Zion Games didn’t feel real most of the time, more like some kind of fever dream. Just to see a dude that massive, yet somehow more athletic than everyone else on the court by a factor of about 10, is astonishing. I still remember watching him go up for an alley-oop and seeing him float in the air like he was made of helium or something. 

Even though these kids knew that they were in for a humbling beat down from one of the great players of their age – or any age – their appreciation and respect for Zion was what was most interesting to me.

All that said, Zion is genuinely one of the nicest dudes I’ve ever played against, just super positive and humble. He was a huge deal in high school, especially in South Carolina. We had an unofficial team policy that you weren’t allowed to take a picture with him after the games, just to maintain what little integrity we had. But that still didn’t stop a lot of the younger guys — and even some coaches — from doing it. To Zion’s credit, he was always willing to talk to anyone as well as always encouraging to the younger guys. Everyone should really be rooting for him to succeed. He’s a great guy, and he’s overcome a lot to get to where he’s at. 

Maybe current and future stars from across the sports spectrum can take a cue from the 20 year old rookie from New Orleans. Be humble and show respect to your opponents no matter how good your are and no matter what the outcome of the contest is.

Selling The US Down The River

John Bolton and 45

From Carl Bernstein (Yes, that Carl Bernstein) on CNN, an absolutely insane yet not at all surprising piece on 45’s phone calls with dictators and allies around the world:

One person familiar with almost all the conversations with the leaders of Russia, Turkey, Canada, Australia and western Europe described the calls cumulatively as ‘abominations’ so grievous to US national security interests that if members of Congress heard from witnesses to the actual conversations or read the texts and contemporaneous notes, even many senior Republican members would no longer be able to retain confidence in the President.

The insidious effect of the conversations comes from Trump’s tone, his raging outbursts at allies while fawning over authoritarian strongmen, his ignorance of history and lack of preparation as much as it does from the troubling substance, according to the sources. While in office, then- Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats expressed worry to subordinates that Trump’s telephone discussions were undermining the coherent conduct of foreign relations and American objectives around the globe, one of CNN’s sources said. And in recent weeks, former chief of staff Kelly has mentioned the damaging impact of the President’s calls on US national security to several individuals in private.

The most jaw dropping elements were saved for describing 45’s interactions with Putin and Turkey’s Erdogan

The calls with Putin and Erdogan were particularly egregious in terms of Trump almost never being prepared substantively and thus leaving him susceptible to being taken advantage of in various ways, according to the sources — in part because those conversations (as with most heads of state), were almost certainly recorded by the security services and other agencies of their countries.In his phone exchanges with Putin, the sources reported, the President talked mostly about himself, frequently in over-the-top, self-aggrandizing terms: touting his “unprecedented” success in building the US economy; asserting in derisive language how much smarter and “stronger” he is than “the imbeciles” and “weaklings” who came before him in the presidency (especially Obama); reveling in his experience running the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow, and obsequiously courting Putin’s admiration and approval. Putin “just outplays” him, said a high-level administration official — comparing the Russian leader to a chess grandmaster and Trump to an occasional player of checkers. While Putin “destabilizes the West,” said this source, the President of the United States “sits there and thinks he can build himself up enough as a businessman and tough guy that Putin will respect him.” (At times, the Putin-Trump conversations sounded like “two guys in a steam bath,” a source added.)

Just as a reminder, a summary of how the Senate voted during the impeachment proceedings earlier this year. (Remember that?)

The Importance of Live Aid

Freddie Mercury at LiveAid

Live Aid was a seminal day and event in rock and roll history that has been discussed and analyzed numerous times over the 35 years since it took place. What is amazing to me about Live Aid is that it went from hair-brained idea to seminal, once in a lifetime event in just about a year.

Live Aid, which took place on July 13, 1985 for a global audience of 1.9 billion people, was a massive, bi-continental pop concert created to raise money for Ethiopian famine relief. It was the brainchild of Bob Geldof, leader of the Irish new wave band The Boomtown Rats. Geldof was spurred to philanthropic action after seeing a BBC report in October 1984 that featured footage of starving children. His first thought was to make a charity single.

Of course, Live Aid wasn’t just about fundraising. It also had to be a great show—or else why would people bother to watch it in the first place? As it happened, the day was filled with memorable performances on both sides of the Atlantic. The consensus pick for Live Aid MVP is Queen, whose 21-minute Wembley set included “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Will Rock You,” and “We are the Champions.” Mercury “strutted and preened, carrying his microphone on a metal pole that he treated as a vaudevillian’s cane, an air guitar, and, of course, a phallus,” The New York Times wrote of Mercury’s performance. “He was a rock star playing a rock star, leather-lunged and imperious but also grinning to let everyone share the joke … For 21 minutes, Freddie Mercury undeniably made the world his stadium.” In 2005, Queen’s Live Aid set was voted the greatest rock gig in history by a panel of music industry experts.

The diversity of the acts that performed during the Live Aid concerts in Philly and London was a downfall of the event, but it was not for a lack of trying. While it was an important day for artists like Run-DMC, other larger black artists such as Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and Prince declined to participate. Hindsight is 20/20 and I am sure there were things that could have been done to get a more diverse palette of artists to perform. The impact that the event had on Run-DMC was real and was an important opportunity to expose a worldwide audience to the emerging ‘hip hop’ genre of music.

As a teenager in the middle of high school when this event took place, I will never forget spending that Saturday watching the concert unfold. It was an amazing thing to witness live and I only wish I could have been there in person in Philadelphia.

How The Virus Won

COVID-19 How It Happened - NY Times

The NY Times with a really amazing piece on their site that takes you step by step from the first two cases of COVID-19 in mid-February 2020 through to the disaster that is unfolding in front of our eyes.

We traced the hidden spread of the epidemic to explain why the United States failed to stop it. At every crucial moment, American officials were weeks or months behind the reality of the outbreak. Those delays likely cost tens of thousands of lives.

And then after that, our elected leaders encouraged people to travel around the country and in doing so, accelerated the spread of the disease.

Top federal health experts concluded by late February that the virus was likely to spread widely within the United States and that government officials would soon need to urge the public to embrace social distancing measures, such as avoiding crowds and staying home.

But Mr. Trump wanted to avoid disrupting the economy. So some of his health advisers, at Mr. Trump’s urging, told Americans at the end of February to continue to travel domestically and go on with their normal lives. And they did. Millions moved across the country, cellphone data shows. Some unknowingly carried the virus with them.

As people traveled into and out of the United States, cities like New York turned into a massive hot spot for the virus. Once the reality of the situation was acertained by government leaders, they tried to mitigate the situation by restricting travel.

By the time President Trump blocked travel from Europe on March 13, the restrictions were essentially pointless. The outbreak had already been spreading widely in most states for weeks.

Today, after we were starting to see serious progress towards gaining control over this public health crisis, we are now seeing a rapid increase in cases across the South and Southwest as the country has begun to open up. Who could have predicted that? While other developed countries in Europe have effectively brought their COVID situations under control, the United States is now seeing an alarming rise in cases. What an embarrassment.